Photo by Austin Hodges
One of the reigning queens of young adult literature is none other than Sara Shepard, author of the Pretty Little Liars series which has had a whopping 16 volumes published. Of course, the books also spawned a TV show that has become nothing short of a phenomenon, currently in its 6th season and counting.
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How did this idea come about for Shepard, and how did it grow to be so huge? “I really didn’t think it was gonna go anywhere,” Sara muses. “But then the publisher bought 4 books. And now it’s like, 16 books later…!” The idea, like many successful ones, started simply enough. “I grew up in the Philadelphia area, which is where PLL is set,” Sara tells us. “I’ve always liked mysteries, so I knew I wanted it to be like that. The characters are all different facets of things that I went through in Junior High or High school.”
Drawing from her own experiences, readers might wonder who the author may have felt most connected to when writing. “The one I felt most like was Aria. Like her, I was so ‘done’ with being in high school. I get where she was coming from: very artsy, into painting and writing, interested in Europe…” However, Sara does stipulate: “I never had an affair with my English teacher!”
And what about the other Liars? “The other girls were me at other points in life. I have a good connection to them too.”
The other obvious question is, with a huge bestselling book series and a TV show that is probably even more popular and successful than its source material, does the author ever get frustrated by how the TV writers change elements and characters from the books? “I’m just as surprised as everybody else!” Sara says, mentioning how she does not have a real connection to the goings-on in the production. “Recently on the show, Alison is sort of back and she seems like a good person – all these people are hunting her down, taking advantage of her. I hope she’s not a good person though, because she’s really not in the books at all! So it’s weird to see her as a sympathetic character. I hope they twist it around so that she’s manipulating people…”
But she loves the show as much as the rest of us, and takes pleasure in many of the plot twists as well. “I was so excited a couple seasons ago when Mona was revealed, because that followed the books!” And finally, there are a few changes in the show that Sara loves. “I like that Toby’s still around. I regret killing him off!”
Now, it looks like the PLL book series might actually be coming to an end. “Books 15 (Toxic) and 16 (Vicious) are all about wrapping this up,” the author confirms. “Nick has been revealed, he’s off to jail, and Ali got away, and now it’s like—we have to find her and stop her because this has gone on too long!”
So with that little nugget of a clue to the end of the series (“I think it gets to a good place at the end,” Sara teases us), fans can now start looking forward to more work from Sara, outside of PLL. One new book, out this month, is entitled The Perfectionists, and at first glance you may just think it’s another PLL edition. But in truth it’s so much more. “It’s a two book series about 5 girls who all go to this really competitive high school. They’re all perfect in their own ways at their own things. They all come together in an unlikely way and bond over this common enemy they have, and devise a prank that inadvertently kills him. It’s almost like somebody is pursuing them and making terrible things happen in their lives.”
The main difference between PLL and The Perfectionists, according to Sara, is how the story is presented. “It’s much more of a psychological thriller,” she explains. “They’re in danger, but also have no idea who’s after them. It’s a lot like PLL but sort of turned upside down!”
Intrigued? We so are…
Did you enjoy this article? Leave a comment below! And check out all of the great new content from YA Magazine on young adult books, top teen novels, young adult TV shows, movie casting news, young adult literature, and more! Follow us on Twitter @YAmzine.